Monday, June 25, 2012

Hell of a mess

In my last post I wrote that I was tackling a paint job on the frenchy-bus.  At that time I still thought I could colour match the old paint.  I pretty quickly determined that my paint mixer had come close but not close enough and I don’t think that would have worked particularly well anyway.  There were just too many places on the bus where either there were cracks in the underlying fibreglass or where the paint had worn off or started to peel.  If I can get a half-assed paint job on top of a good repair job it will look at a minimum as good as it did and with a bit of luck a lot better.

Of course in order for any of that to happen I will need more than two decent weather days in succession.  I am so bloody sick and tired of rain I can hardly stand it.  We’ve had our two days now and the forecast is for two days of crap.  That generally turns into a week of crap at a bare minimum. 

I’ve been adopted by an old geek in town who used to own a body shop.  He checks on me at least once a day.  Today he confirmed what I knew all along but was pretending not to – I needed to remove all the clearance lights.  If I hadn’t done that the new paint would have started to peel around every light within a year at the longest and likely sooner.  So today I pulled all the lights off and sanded underneath them.  And I got the forehead sanded so that the only major unsanded surface remaining is the patch underneath the windshield where the wipers mount.  I also got some rough lines sketched on the sides to lay out the future colour stripes. 

I had planned to have a new supply of epoxy waiting for me when I got back from South Carolina but someone screwed up and it hadn’t arrived on Saturday when Marilyn picked me up.  That’s holding up the final fibreglass applications.  Other than those few final bits of fibreglass I’m pretty well ready to start throwing paint at the bus.  Of course all that depends on the weather giving me half a break.  The paint dries really quickly but the bus needs to be be dry when it goes on so that rules out putting it on immediately following a rainstorm. 

I was late returning from South Carolina because of the severe weather on the east coast.  I got to the airport in Charlotte early Friday morning and then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Some of us finally figured out that something was going on in New York because all the flights to La Guardia and JFK were being delayed and everything else was still going out more or less on time.  Finally they started cancelling the New York flights and eventually mine was cancelled too.  It turned out that there were severe thunderstorms in the New York area and nothing was coming or going. 

So next I stood in line at “Customer Service” and eventually got re-booked on a direct flight from Charlotte to Toronto.  That would have got me into Toronto in time to catch the flight that I originally was going to catch after my flight from Charlotte to New York and New York to Toronto.  And then I waited some more.  And waited some more.  Eventually they announced that our plane had been held up for mechanical issues wherever it was before it was supposed to be in Charlotte.  And then after a while the flight simply disappeared off the computer arrivals/departures screen. 

A woman that I had met from Regina who was also waiting heard from the gate attendant that our flight was cancelled and we were supposed to return to “Customer Service” to get re-booked.  I’d already been through that adventure and this time the lineup stretched halfway down the hallway so I wasn’t about to give up another 4 hours standing in another line.  Instead I phoned US Air and by some miracle got connected to a human being within about 5 minutes.  She was very sorry but couldn’t do anything better than booking me on a direct flight to Toronto on Saturday morning.  So after a whole wasted day in the Charlotte airport I retired to the Econo Lodge and started all over again Saturday morning.  Of course I did all this without my suitcase because it had been checked through to Regina first thing in the morning. 

On Saturday when I arrived at Toronto Customs I had zero expectation that my bag would arrive with me.  I would have frankly been surprised to learn that it was on the same continent let alone in the same airport but there it was waiting for me by the Customs carousel.  And after that the day was pretty uneventful.  I was fortunate enough to draw a 5 hour layover in Toronto so I ate a leisurely overpriced lunch and waited some more. 

Yesterday and today were consumed with sanding and more sanding.  Tonight I wrapped some holes with masking tape in what will likely turn out to be a futile attempt to keep water on the outside of the bus.  As part of the painting prep I disconnected the awning arms and flipped them up on the roof.  That pulled the awning up out of the way but I was worried that a big wind might unwrap them back violently against the side of the bus so tonight I also tied them down to the driver’s side of the bus. 

Meanwhile Marilyn has been sanding on the inside of the bus.  Most of our interior woodwork is getting to the point where it needs recoating.  I’ve already done the living room and bathroom but the kitchen and bedroom are looking pretty tired.  Marilyn put a couple of coats of varnish on the bedroom last winter but the wood must have been too wet because we have some serious mold discolouration so she has been stripping and sanding in preparation for a complete new coat of varnish.

We got interrupted both yesterday and today by company.  Yesterday it was Kent and Gaylene on their way back to Melfort from Goodspirit Lake.  Today it was Ross and Ryan on their way to Arborfield.  In both cases we had a good visit with friends that we haven’t seen for a long time.   We’re not usually in one place long enough to have company – this was a very pleasant change.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fools rush in

I’ve never let lack of knowledge stop me from getting in over my head on a project.  Occasionally that works out but usually I live to regret my impulsiveness.  Time will tell in this case but I’m betting on regret sooner rather than later.

The frenchy-bus is getting pretty tired looking.  A large part of that is that the clear coat needs renewing which I think is easily within my capabilities.  The part where I get quickly over my head is trying to do some necessary body work before I do  the recoating with clear. 

At a distance cracks like the one in the picture above aren’t too visible but up close they are alarming.  Clearly we need to deal with them while we still can.  I have seen estimates in the $20-30,000 range to have the work done professionally and the day after it was done the bus would still be worth whatever it was worth the day I drove it into the bodyshop.  So that isn’t going to happen. 

I don’t have any bodyshop experience but I do have some experience with West System epoxy which, as near as I can tell anyway, is probably the ideal material to do the necessary repairs.  Since I’m not particularly busy this summer and the work is kind of enjoyable I’m treating it as a learning experience. 

The problem with this kind of work is that you have to make one hell of a mess before things start looking better.  As you can see with the two photos above, the initial crack doesn’t look nearly as bad as the patch.  The theory is that eventually the finished product will look much better but so far that’s just a theory. 

So I started out by grinding out the crack as far as it extended and then roughing up the surface surrounding the entire length of the crack.  Then I laid several layers of fiberglass cloth into the crack, ground it back, built it up with resin, smoothed it off, etc etc.  Tomorrow we are going into Regina where I expect to find a large quantity of sanding discs waiting for me.  I refuse to pay local retail charges for stuff I can buy off ebay for at most 30% of local pricing when all I need to do is wait a few days.  Between ebay and Princess Auto I am spending as little as possible but it still adds up. 

The other problem we have to deal with is popping rivets that are blistering the surface of the paint.  Along the beltline I have already dealt with this problem by re-riveting the full length of the coach with decorative washers backed by nylon washers at each rivet.  That seems to be working well but we still have some spots out in the middle of the side panels where rivets are popping beneath the paint.  My intent is to deal with that through a combination of grinding and filling as well as some more rivets.  In the photo above I have ground out the filler over each rivet beneath the window and refilled the holes with West System epoxy thickened with colloidal filler.  That ends up being kind of a super-bondo which I suspect will outlive any use we will make of the bus and likely will outlive the life of the side panels.  I’m just not excited about tracking down every rivet, grinding out its bondo and refilling the resulting gap.  And then sanding and painting the blotches that I create.

The one bright spot in all of this is that it is acting as an excuse to buy tools.  He who dies with the most tools wins so it is never a bad thing to have to buy tools.  Last weekend we came home from Saskatoon with a 20 gallon twin head compressor.  I picked that up at Peavey Mart.  Marilyn was skeptical because it didn’t come with any operators manuals which I must confess seemed a little odd to me too.  But how hard could it be?  So we brought it home, wrastled it off the truck, I plugged it in, hooked up an air 90 and tried it out.  About 5 minutes into the exercise I had pretty well run out of air.  That seemed bad but what did I know?  Maybe the air tool was too much for the compressor, although I had checked the ratings and it didn’t seem like it should be.

I let it run for a while but it didn’t seem to be gaining.  Even with the tool disconnected it wouldn’t make any more than about 40 PSI.  It seemed like it was making a lot of air noise too.  So I shut it off and sure enough, there was a loud sound of escaping air which turned out to be a broken fitting at the back of the air regulator.  On closer inspection it turned out that the fitting in question was plastic and ………………… wait for it ………………… its hard to believe that any business would try to pull this ……………………… the fitting had been previously broken and glued together.  Evidently the glue held long enough to build initial pressure because the compressor had run up to 120 and cut out when I first plugged it in. 

I was more than a little pissed off.  It was Sunday afternoon – I had work I had been looking forward to getting started on and I was going to have to take the stupid compressor back to Saskatoon.  The gas alone for that trip would have been 1/2 the price of the compressor but it occurred to me that there is a Peavey Mart store in Yorkton.  So I phoned the store which was open and after a bit of back and forth we confirmed that they did in fact have this model of compressor in stock and that all I needed to do was bring in the defective one and pick up another one.  So that’s what we did and it turns out that even though the new one has the same Peavey Mart SKU it is in fact built by a different company with a slightly different plumbing arrangement to the regulator.  And no glued fittings.  And it came in a box with an owner’s manual.  All is good.  But I’m still a fool leaping in.  I’m just a fool with some pretty good tools.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The frog in the kettle

DISCLAIMER: No frogs were harmed in creating this post.  I have never actually boiled any reptile, let alone a frog.

There’s a story that goes something like: if you throw a frog in a boiling pot he will leap back out immediately but if you put him in a pot of cold water and slowly bring it to a boil he will be frog soup.  I predict that our American neighbours are headed toward frog soup.

Drones for "security"

Nobody ever votes for evil but evil definitely gets voted in.  It’s a slippery slope from German nationalism in the wake of a disastrous peace treaty to Kristallnacht.  No doubt there were many voices along the way who said “We’re giving up freedom in the interest of security but when do we stop giving up our freedom?”  Eventually its too late to stop the train.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin        

That famous quote has been variously paraphrased but it is no less true today than when it was originally written.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You can’t keep a winner down

A couple of days ago I was driving up to Seager Wheeler farm for their annual direct seeding demo day.  This is the first time I’ve made it to one of their field days but they have been doing them more or less since direct seeding came along, some 18 or 20 years ago now. 

The newscast opened with a story about how we need to hire more Indians in Saskatchewan.  There’s getting to be so many of them because they have more kids than the white man and apparently its our (the white man’s) fault that they aren’t working.  I have a serious problem with that logic but the juxtaposition against the closing story brought it all home.

The final story in the newscast was one of those heartwarming human interest, guy gets a bad break and then makes good, type of stories.  This Italian dude was some hero on the racecar circuit until 10 years ago when he was in a horrific crash.  They interviewed him on the radio and he said “my car was torn in half with my body in one half and my legs went arrivederci with the other half of the car.”  Evidently a priest administered last rites after the accident but against all odds the guy survived and now he has just finished winning some big hand powered bicycle race.

When I heard that story it struck me how you absolutely can’t keep a winner down, no matter what you do.  On the other hand it may somehow be my fault that a large portion of the Saskatchewan population is perpetually unemployed.  You decide.

We just finished spending a few days in Saskatoon, getting reacquainted with old friends, doing a bit of business and injecting some money into the local economy.  Today Marilyn headed south to Regina to deal with a warranty claim on her glasses at Costco and I headed east to Buchanan.  Its very wet as you get east of Saskatoon.  I saw little activity in the field and what I did see was mainly guys trying to dry things out.  There were a few drills going but they were going around a lot of wet holes. 

Tonight I got the new/old internet dish hooked up and aligned on our permanent mount here.  I had it set up so the old one would just drop into a bracket with no need to aim it but of course the new one was enough different that I couldn’t get away with that.  I also pulled the starter out of the cube van because it appears to have died.  Fortunately Ukrainian Tire in Yorkton has one so I’ll go pick that up tomorrow.  Its time to start selling some vehicles I think – we’ve only got a half acre in this yard so pretty soon we’ll run out of room.  The cube van is going on Kijiji as soon as I get it running again.  We’ve also got the Malibu here now but it needs to either go in the water or down the road.  We’ve gone two years without even getting it wet – that’s inexcusable.  I unwrapped it this afternoon and it wasn’t in as bad shape as I expected.  Don’t get me wrong – it was a mess – just not as bad a mess as I thought it might be.